YMCA Teen Leadership Council strengthens ties during Colorado ski trip

Thirteen members of the South Miami Dade YMCA Teen Leadership Council — a grassroots group created by teens for teens interested in positive community involvement — made the first of what they hope will be many future trips to an exotic locale for a workshop on leadership skills to improve their service to the community and improve themselves through teamwork.

Since this particular trip was a five-day excursion to the Snow Mountain Ranch YMCA in Granby, CO, they found some time to ski, of course.

“This trip was eye-opening for everyone involved,” said youth and family planning director Amy Dean, who supervised the trip with district vice president Peyton Tune. “There were a lot of firsts. A lot of these teens had never seen snow — let alone ski or been in a place with mountains; several had never been outside of Florida. Some of our teens struggled skiing, but everyone maintained a positive attitude. Everyone fell down trying to ski, but everyone got back up and everyone changed for the better.”

The trip took place the week before Christmas and cost $525, including flight, lodging, food and ski lift tickets. Expenses were kept low by a generous grant from JP Morgan Chase for teen programming which subsidized the program by more than 50 percent.

“It was incredible to see some of the kids helping out others who weren’t so social,” said Dean. “Everyone felt like they belonged. I’ve heard a lot of parents who are seeing positive differences in their children’s lives that they tell me are due to our program.”

The Teen Leadership Council, or TLC, was conceived in August 2013 by YMCA youth Sophie Carrillo. Wanting to become more involved in her community, she recruited other teens — mostly by word-ofmouth — and soon meetings were being held every Tuesday evening at the South Dade Family Center. The council consists of 25 core members, with several others joining. There are no membership requirements besides regular participation.

“Unlike the YMCA, where you have a membership and there is a program fee, our Teen Leadership Council operates through the belief that every teen is deserving of this program whether they take out a membership with the Yitself,” said operations director Garrett Brolsma. “The only thing they would pay for is if we go on specific trips.”

The teens have participated alongside Camillus House, the Trooper Robert Glenn Smith Foundation, the Homestead and South Dade YMCAFamily Centers and the Falls Shopping Center, where they’ve worked to beautify the area. One of their most engaging ongoing projects is Teens Teaching Tech, a monthly outreach program where the group teaches interested YMCA older adults about modern technology. Seniors learn how to use smart phones, Skype, Facetime, Facebook and Twitter to better communicate with the increasingly digital world around them.

“It’s interesting how unique and impactful Teens Teaching Tech has been on both the teens and our older members,” said Brolsma. “Teens so often are thought of as just students. This gives teens the opportunity to become teachers, which is a great empowerment tool and, through this, our active older adults gain a tangible skill.”

For more information, go to www.ymcamiami.org.

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